June 07, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Two issues of major concern to Union County officials are still up in the air in Salem as the state Legislature aims for adjournment by the end of June.

The states share of funding for the proposed expansion of the Eastern Oregon University science building is still included in the Republican co-chairmans overall budget, said an aide to House Speaker Mark Simmons, R-Elgin.

And the state funding for operating a new Oregon Youth Authority boot camp at Hilgard is still being negotiated, said Trish Conrad, Simmons director of communications. The speaker was not available for comment.

Eastern Oregon University President Phil Creighton has said he hopes the construction of the proposed $33.5 million science building will begin within the next year or two.

EOU is raising money to build the science center that would house many university departments and outside research agencies, such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as a biotech incubator. The university is seeking funds from private, state and federal sources.

Easterns Colby Marshall, who has spent much time in Salem lobbying for the university, said this week no numbers have been plugged into the state budget for the building, adding, We should know in a couple of weeks.

He said the $24 million the university is seeking from the state should come in the form of general fund dollars and bonding authority.

President Creighton has had good conversations recently with Rep. Simmons and Sen. (David) Nelson, and they remain optimistic about our chances, Marshall said.

He said a representative from U.S. Sen. Gordon Smiths office was in La Grande recently and informed the university that $5 million in federal funding for the building remains the No. 1 federal funding priority for Sen. Smith.

Union County and the City of La Grande each put $50,000 into building the 50-bed boot camp for juvenile offenders at Hilgard, and a number of local residents

received training to work there. However, the camp remains closed for the boot camp program since the operation has not been funded by the state.

OYA Director Karen Brazeau said in March it would take $4.3 million to get Hilgard up and running. She did not envision it opening within the next two years.

Tuesday, Karen Andall, executive assistant to Brazeau, said a work session on the Youth Authority budget has not been scheduled . But it could be set for sometime during the next few weeks.

The youth camps are not in the governors recommended budget, Andall said. Gov. John Kitzhabers proposed budget called for $66 million for the Oregon Childrens Plan and represented a significant shift in state priorities, proposing to target more funds at early-age children deemed at highest risk.

Such a proposal dropped boot camps from the funding. But the latest plan is to fund the boot camp at Tillamook and not at Hilgard. The state also operates a camp at Woodburn.

Kitzhaber said Wednesday he might accept phasing in the Childrens Plan over time, freeing up some funding for other projects.